DNA Starlett Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by ChaChaRealSmooth, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    @Levpush I've tried an HE1000se with a Starlett. It's not atrocious, but the Starlett doesn't excel at gripping planar drivers.
     
  2. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Friend

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    I quite like my Diana V2 in 3ohm impedance setting! The Diana is around 50 ohms and seems to do just fine.

    Not as much impact as my Mjo2, but very enjoyable.

    But I would not buy the Starlett if my only headphone was a planar.
     
  3. Levpush

    Levpush Rando

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    I do have an Auteur and that’s why I pulled the trigger on the Starlett. I’m thinking of getting another hp that is lighter for everyday use and music listening that have different style of presentation than my Autuer, and it comes down to HD800S or the Arya(which I prefer slightly).
     
  4. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    HD800S wins by a large margin when the Starlett is concerned, IMHO.
     
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  5. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Only planars I really thought reached their potential on the Stellaris were the Verums and a few of the easier to drive HFMs. DCA, Audeze, and hard to drive HFM would be much better with a different amp. RAD-0 was OK, it seemed to reach it's potential, but I've only heard it on a few amps before so I can't say for sure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2021
  6. Roman

    Roman Facebook Friend

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    I've tried Starlett with Arya and it works great. Arya is rather easy to drive so no problems there.
    I'm now using my Kennerton Thekk and it is also pretty good.
     
  7. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Some photos of Starlett and other glowing objects on the desk. In my defense, I don't actually own all of these. At least some of the cost is offset by not needing to run the gas heater at night anymore.

    By some miracle the Gungnir is able to serve audio to everything. The dimensionality and technicalities of the DNA amp are very impressive, finding faults with it are quite hard. I guess that it weighs a lot? And I thought Mjolnir 2 was hefty.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @roshambo123 , is that Starlett a prototype, loaner, or otherwise a one-off? It does not have the standard faceplate, the jacks are located differently, etc.
     
  9. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Loaner.
     
  10. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like the inputs are placed correctly, just the silver faceplate has been removed.
     
  11. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    So, my current setup is hooked up to PC, using jriver WASAPI for playback.

    DAC is Musical Fidelity MX-DAC (PCM1795)

    This particular setup I have recently been able to directly compare Liquid Platinum and DNA Starlett (received 3/26/21); headphones used were HD800S, HD820, and Hemp. Note that I also recently had a MX-HPA in rotation, which I compared to LP but no longer have to compare to DNA Starlett b/c it broke.

    I am going to compare these 3 units in synergy with the MX-DAC and headphones I used, because that is my best reference point.

    Regarding the Starlett, in combination with the MX-DAC and HD800S it creates a "reference" sound with the HD800S - is the best I can describe it. Meaning, I cannot find any flaws at all with the sound; nothing is missing, yet nothing is irritating either; for example, with the MX-HPA I felt I got a really big soundstage and lots of detail but it sometimes was painful with the HD800. Then, with the Liquid Platinum it sounded very smooth and worked well with HD800S but the soundstage was significantly smaller - I felt I lost some of the HD800 "space" - and also a notable amount of detail appeared lost.

    So, where the DNA Starlett really is impressive with the MX-DAC and HD800S is that it manages to have the big soundstage and detail of the MX-HPA, yet manages to be more smooth than the Liquid Platinum while also delivering more detail. That is quite an impressive feat, as one would think the greater quantity of high frequency detail would also increase potential for harsh sound, but I have not found that at all - so I assume the DNA Starlett is just delivering that high freq detail better than other amps I have tried. Bad recordings that have given me a problem on other amps come through excellent on DNA Starlett, delivering all the detail while somehow not being harsh at all at loud volumes even with HD800S/HD820. Everything just sounds pretty much perfect when using this amp with the HD800S/HD820. It may also be that MX-DAC + HD800S/HD820 + DNA Starlett is a particularly good sonic match.

    The bass of DNA Starlett may be a bit lower in quantity than on the LP, but I believe it is a tighter / more accurate, again a more "reference" type sound, less muddy and more satisfying.

    With the Grado Hemp, this greater amount of detail of DNA Starlett really exposes some of its shortcomings in delivering fine detail, but it still remains a fun listen for "dirty" acid / goa / synthwave tracks and the like.

    One impressive note on the DNA starlett is also the build quality. It looks like a piece of electronic art, and feels like one as well. I am very fond of the feel, look, and design of the volume knob and XLR jacks.

    While this is the first ~$2k headphone-specific amp I have bought in that pricerange, it is the third amp overall (incl loudspeaker amps) I have spent this amount of money on and this one by far was the most impressive in all ways - best sounding, best looking, best design, etc.

    I used to sell electronics like 20+ yr ago and there were some demo albums I used to sell speakers, and the Starlett did better on these with the HD800S + MX-DAC than some of the $10k (back then) amp/speaker combos in treated rooms we sold - with those albums some of the "avoid" tracks due to sibilance or other issue [which I always use to test new gear even these days] and this combo just sailed through those with ease while still retaining all the detail. Remarkable.

    An overall homerun, and if I save up my pennies I am now enticed by the Stellaris! IMG_7978.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  12. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    EF 135mm f/2L?
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  13. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    50R+110 f/2 GF
     
  14. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    I revised my guess before your post looking at the bokeh more carefully but looks like i was still wrong heh. bokeh too complete and round for the 85 i mentioned first
     
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  15. johnnypaddock

    johnnypaddock Facebook Friend

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    I recently purchased the Starlett that @YMO offered up for sale, took delivery this morning and spent a decent amount of time listening (and trying to work at the same time). What a fantastic amp! It's got a smooth, refined sound presentation that I'm finding addictive. It's replacing a ZMF Pendant and so far I'm really happy with the move. I'll post some impressions once I have spent more time with it.

    I have to say that buying from @YMO was something else. I don't change out gear all that often but I've bought/sold a decent amount over the years and he might be the best seller I've ever bought from. Constant communication, photos, helpful advice on tubes, etc... It was over the top. Huge thanks, my friend.
     
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  16. johnnypaddock

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    After spending the last 6 weeks with the DNA Starlett, I'm starting to find that I like it a ton as an everyday driver. I thought after awhile I'd go back to the GSX-Mini most of the time, but I still can't stop listening to the Starlett. I figure I should post a few impressions.

    First, it's got a dead silent background. My last tube amp was a ZMF Pendant with a hum coming from the high Z output, and it's been a night and day difference going to the Starlett. Even with all of my current headphones being ZMF, I'm getting more enjoyment from the Starlett than I did from the Pendant. This is especially the case with the Vérité Closed, which really benefits from the lower noise floor.

    I hear a wet, rounded type of sound. I don't think I'd go so far as to call it "polite", because it can definitely provide some energetic and dynamic moments, but it's a sound presentation that shows restraint. It's consistent and solid with all types of recordings and genres of music. It doesn't have the ridiculous speed or visceral impact of the Pendant, but it makes up for that with stone cold beautiful timbre and a serious weight to the sound. There's no question that the bass and midrange are running the show here.

    The soundstage is great... It doesn't do anything crazy wide, tall or deep... Just a perfect balance and nice imaging that can seem holographic with the right material.

    I have to agree with most people who have mentioned that the tubes don't make a huge difference. I swapped out the rectifier for a late 50's Mullard fat base GZ34 and it had a positive effect, but it was subtle. I'm currently using an RCA clear top 6CG7 but the Westinghouse in that spot was also excellent.
     
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  17. edd

    edd Facebook Friend

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    @johnnypaddock do you know when your Pendant was originally purchased? Just curious bc I know that amp has had some upgrades over time (some of which were supposed to lower the noise floor).
     
  18. johnnypaddock

    johnnypaddock Facebook Friend

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    I heard the same actually… Mine was an early unit.
     
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  19. dncnexus

    dncnexus Friend

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    I have heard the same thing but have heard other A&S amps such as the new Mogwai SE and they still have noise floor problems. The noise is noticeable on the LowZ and HighZ with Verite, Verite Closed, HD800S, and Utopia (On Low Z). I think this is a systemic problem with A&S amps due to the power and the fact I believe they are speaker amps first, not the best with dynamic cans.

    Edit: This is noticeable across many Mogwai SE models from people ive talked to, as well as other A&S amp models.
     
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  20. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    My understanding is that the new Pendant SE was supposed to mitigate the noise issue, but I haven't heard a new unit. My OG Pendant is finicky with placement but I haven't found it to be a huge problem. Obviously YMMV.
     

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